It’s back to the drawing board for a bylaw controlling the use of vacation rentals in the Comox Valley.
Following a public hearing on Sept. 5 where vacation rental owners expressed their concerns about Zoning Bylaw 520, the Comox Valley Regional District Board rescinded the first reading of Zoning Bylaw 520.
John Ismay rents out his detached cottage as a vacation rental and said the consensus at the public hearing was that there was not enough consultation.
“It was overwhelming saying listen, we need to consult, we need to talk,” he said. “There was a lack of preparation, lack of communication and it’s just totally unacceptable.”
Ton Trieu, assistant manager of planning services with the CVRD, said there was consultation, including meeting with some property owners, holding four open houses and sending letters to landowners where zoning changes would be put in place. However, Trieu said the CVRD did not consult with vacation rental owners because the regulations surrounding vacation rentals did not change.
According to the proposed bylaw, vacation rentals can only operate if the property has been rezoned or if the owner has been granted a Temporary Use Permit. Trieu says this is no different from the current bylaw, other than the addition of the term “vacation rental” for increased clarity.
Zoning Bylaw 520 would replace the current bylaw, Zoning Bylaw 2781, which was adopted in 2005 and covers a wide range of land uses and uses that are permitted and prohibited in different zones. The current bylaw has been under review in order to align it with the Regional Growth Strategy and the Official Community Plan. One of the many proposed changes was the addition of the term “vacation rentals” because the term did not exist when the Zoning Bylaw 2781 was adopted over 10 years ago.
Trieu said that no vacation rental owners had approached the CVRD about rezoning or TUPs before the draft Zoning Bylaw 520 came out. There are currently still no vacation rental owners that have applied for rezoning or TUPs, but Trieu said he has now had some inquiries into submitting applications.
In contrast, there are currently 518 homes in the Comox Valley listed on Airbnb, not to mention the vacation rentals that are rented out independently or through other services.
Trieu says the rezoning or Temporary Use Permit requirements have not been enforced because the CVRD needs a written complaint about the use of a property before taking action.
“A written complaint triggers the bylaw compliance office to investigate and make sure that they’re in compliance,” he said.
Some of the concerns brought up at the public hearing about the required rezoning or TUP included the cost, the amount of time it takes to apply and get accepted, and the lack of awareness about this requirement.
Ismay said that he welcomes regulation to the vacation rental industry, he would just like to see an open discussion with the CVRD in the planning stages to make it a healthier industry. However, he adds that rezoning is not the answer.
“We’re totally open for regulations; we understand that there are some absentee owners that have party houses in the middle of quiet residential districts that should be disciplined. No question,” he said. “Most people would absolutely welcome standardization of the industry because the industry’s not going away. We want to be recognized, we want to carry on our business in an orderly manner and comply with the neighbourhood bylaws.”
Director Rod Nichol made the motion to rescind Zoning Bylaw 520 and said there is a possibility of removing vacation rentals from the bylaw and regulating them separately, but this has not yet been brought forward or discussed by the board.
Trieu said staff have been directed to work on revising the bylaw and creating a new consultation plan for Zoning Bylaw 520. This will be presented to the CVRD board in the new year.